The Health Star Rating (HSR) is a national voluntary front of pack nutrition labelling scheme that has been recently introduced in Australia to assist with consumer food choice. However, consumer perception of the HSR is yet to be investigated. Therefore, the aim of this qualitative study was to explore perceptions of the HSR through focus group discussions. A purposive sample of Australian grocery shoppers (n = 15) was recruited using supermarket intercept. Four focus groups were held between January and August 2015. Seven overarching themes emerged from thematic analysis of the data. The primary theme was related to a general lack of trust in the HSR due to incongruence between the perceived healthiness of food products and the ratings, which was related to the lack of transparency in the criteria used to determine the number of stars. Ratings on highly processed foods were widely seen as being too high, which was suggested to encourage consumption of these products. There was greater trust in the nutrient information panel due to familiarity. There was a general feeling that an absence of negative imagery would limit the dissuasive impact that the HSR has for lower rated foods. In contrast, the HSR was predicted to be useful for ‘at-aglance’ comparisons across similar products due to its easily understood, familiar interpretive design. The results of this study suggest that consumers require increased transparency in the governance, function and ratings calculation of the HSR. However, more research is required to better understand consumer perceptions of the HSR.
33rd Dietitians Association of Australia National Conference, Melbourne, Australia 19-21 May 2016
Nutrition and Dietetics / Vol. 73, Supplement 1, pp.30